CHAMPCAR/CART: Ford's Ian Bisco interview 2001-07-03

Charged with managing Cosworth Racing's North American Operations, Ian Bisco directly oversees Ford's CART engine program. Bisco took some time following the race in Cleveland to share his thoughts on the appellate panel's modification of CART's...

Charged with managing Cosworth Racing's North American Operations, Ian Bisco directly oversees Ford's CART engine program. Bisco took some time following the race in Cleveland to share his thoughts on the appellate panel's modification of CART's Protest Judges' initial decision regarding the popoff valve spacer, the performance of Arciero-Blair Racing and driver Max Wilson since switching to Ford power, and the performance of the XF engine, now in its second season of competition.

IAN BISCO - Vice-President, Cosworth Racing, Inc.

ARE YOU PLEASED WITH THE RESULTS OF HONDA'S APPEAL REGARDING THE USE OF A POPOFF VALVE SPACER?

"I sat through the proceedings yesterday and I think the results of that are probably the best that we could've hoped for. I think it was a no-win situation for everybody, really. A three-race abstention of the spacer was probably the best way to go, so we'll take that and it will give us a chance to work with our engine and improve our performance."

IS THERE A WAY FOR AN INCIDENT LIKE THIS TO BE AVOIDED IN THE FUTURE?

"I think the outcome of the whole thing has probably taught all of us that there's a better way of doing this. We need to get together and actually develop a better process for making a change or introducing a change of this nature. This experience has I think left a bad taste in the mouths of the engine manufacturers and CART, so I think it's up to us as a group to turn this into something more positive. We need to find a way to improve this process for future issues of this nature that may arise."

AT THE VERY LEAST IT APPEARS THAT THE LINES OF COMMUNICATION NEED TO BE IMPROVED.

"I think so. It's a delicate area because of the concern about giving away technology. As you know, technology is a very guarded issue within the sport because it obviously has a big effect on the manufacturers' performance. There's this shroud of secrecy that we want to maintain, but at the same time we need to somehow come up with a way to address issues that concern us about our competitors."

WHAT DOES THIS THREE-RACE REPRIEVE ALLOW YOU TO DO?

"What's going to happen is we'll go back to what we had before Detroit without the spacer. I think we've probably done quite a few months of work optimizing the engine's performance, driveability, torque curves, and all sorts of things like that without the spacer. To be suddenly thrust into a situation with the spacer basically made our engineers scramble to come up with sort of a patch up job to make the best of what we had. What this three-race reprieve is going to do is allow us to go back and look at the data we had gathered at Detroit and Portland with the spacer. Over the next few weeks we can now work on the engine with the spacer and perfect the performance curves to make sure that there are no problems with it from Mid Ohio onwards."

MAX WILSON AND ARCIERO-BLAIR RACING HAVE PERFORMED QUITE WELL SINCE JOINING THE PROGRAM IN MILWAUKEE.

"Yes they have, but perhaps we should go back and look at how they came to our program. Arciero-Blair Racing approached us for engines beginning with Milwaukee and we were in a position where we already had commitments to our existing teams, so it was a bit unplanned for us to take on another team. Dale Coyne was struggling with his team and there was an opportunity there to divert some of those resources, but it was still pretty late in the year to put another program together. I think the performance that the team and Max have shown to date over the last four races has been really good. They're definitely running with an engine that's not as powerful as the engines that the other teams are running, so if you consider that, I think I think they're doing a stellar job. When can we get them the updated equipment? You have to realize that we have prior contractual commitments to our existing teams, and we have not been in a position to get all of our existing teams fully up-to-date on the 2001 spec. The series now is so demanding and fast moving in terms of updates and developments that it's a continually changing scenario all the time. When we entered into agreement with [team owner] Larry Blair, it was fully understood that they would be running the 2000 engine and we would do our best to get them updated as soon as we could, and nothing has really changed. It probably is frustrating for the team knowing what they've got and seeing what the performance is, but it's actually frustrating for us as well because we want to see them run even better. We're doing everything we can to get them updated as soon as possible, and there's a chance that we might be able to get them something for the next race in Toronto, which is two weeks away. It's certainly not a case where we don't want to give them the updated spec, but instead it's a case of prior contractual commitments and the manufacturing capabilities that we've got that has actually prevented them from getting updated."

WHY HAS IT TAKEN SO LONG FOR COSWORTH TO GET ITS TEAMS THE 2001 PERFORMANCE UPDATES?

"The development cycle in CART is moving so quickly and we left it as late as we could so as to finalize our 2001 engine specs. As I said earlier, although we've finalized our spec, we've actually moved on from that spec now. CART has become so competitive now that what was the latest spec now is not going to be the latest spec in a week's time. For example, since September of last year, we've made something like 1,100 updates to the XF, all aimed at keeping our teams competitive, and this is an ongoing process. Although some of these might be just small little hardware changes, some of those have been changes to major components like castings and forgings, which require a longer lead-time. We're also servicing a lot of teams and trying to provide all of those teams with equal performance, so our manufacturing capabilities are being stretched because of that. We are maintaining a policy of supplying equal parts to everybody at the same time to the best of our ability. One of the negatives of that policy is that it demands a lot of manufacturing for us to change and update all of our team's engines, which is a fairly large workload."

YOU'VE WON THREE OF THE FIRST EIGHT RACES THIS SEASON AND ARE CURRENTLY LEADING THE DRIVERS' CHAMPIONSHIP AND THIRD IN THE MANUFACTURERS' CHAMPIONSHIP. HOW DO YOU RATE YOUR PERFORMANCE THUS FAR THIS SEASON TO LAST SEASON?

"For the manufacturers' points, our position this season compared to last season has been made a little harder, other manufacturers bought away some of our top point scorers from last year, although I must say that Team Rahal has done really well this year. Kenny [Brack] has won two races and Max winning a race was really good and has obviously scored us some points, but I think with Kenny leading the championship it has surprised a lot of people, although it certainly hasn't surprised us. I think the XF has been performing well -- it's been strong and it's been reliable, but I think we're at a bit of a disadvantage to fight for the manufacturers' trophy again this year. The numbers of our drivers finishing up front aren't quite as strong as we'd like to see, but I think our teams are working hard and hopefully will get a lot better where more of our cars begin finishing towards the front. I think some of our last year's teams are now questioning why they left."

YOU'RE CLOSE TO HALFWAY THROUGH THE SECOND SEASON OF THE COSWORTH XF ENGINE. ARE YOU PLEASED WITH ITS LEVEL OF PERFORMANCE TO THIS POINT?

"I think we're probably ahead of where we hoped we'd be at. It's very hard to actually envision a point of performance of where you'd like to be, but I think you measure how you perform against your competitors, and at this point time we're holding up very well. Talking to drivers and team owners, the reliability and performance of the engine has lived up to our expectations. Do we want to be better? Sure, we want to be better. I think that's what drives us in racing. We're always working to be better than what we are, even if we do have an advantage. This series is too competitive and you can't sit back, you must continue to push the envelope in all areas."

-Ford Racing

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Max Wilson , Dale Coyne